After the long pandemic shutdown, this weekend promises to help open hearts and minds to future possibilities and, at the same time, to reflect on past history and injustices in our nation. For some, it may be a juxtaposition of love and anxiety, for current fathers and forefathers, as Juneteenth and Father’s Day are celebrated hours apart, and just as the summer solstice marks the start of a new season.
Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery when, on June 19, 1865, federal troops announced and read General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, reaffirming that the Civil War had ended and reinforcing President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was celebrated in Black communities in the South, usually in local events, into the 20th century, but was largely ignored in other communities.
In the Pacific Northwest where I grew up, Juneteenth and other historic events important to Black, indigenous, and people of color largely were unknown, and not taught in school, even at the college level. From being unknown or ignored, the significance of Juneteenth now has resonated in many communities, to the extent that Friday (June 19 falls on a Saturday, so the holiday is observed on Friday, June 18) is a Virginia state and Fairfax County holiday.
More than just a day off, though, is the opportunity to learn more about the dark history of slavery, and the severe challenges that faced freed slaves at that time. The word “emancipation” is a mouthful, but freedom clearly is simpler, and most freedmen who founded many of our small older communities — the Springdale area in Bailey’s Crossroads, Mount Pleasant in Lincolnia, Gum Springs in Mount Vernon and others — in Fairfax County, started simply, often around a colored school and a church, but with a goal to create a safe and thriving neighborhood. Their descendants, our neighbors, carry on their legacy to this day. Check out fairfaxcounty.gov/history-commission for more information about current projects.
On Sunday, Happy Father’s Day to all our readers who are fathers, and all our readers who have, or had, a father. Dads sometimes get a bum rap, as comic relief on television situation comedies, or stand-up comedy monologues, but that belies the love and responsibility that fathers have for their families. Ties and barbecues may be the order of the day but, for those whose fathers no longer are with us, Father’s Day is bittersweet, and full of memories no longer actively shared. If you can, call your Dad or Granddad. They, and you, will love it!
Sunday also is the first day of summer. Since the pandemic prevented usual summer activities in 2020, this summer is a time to catch up on the fun. Trips to the pool (they’re open again!), visits to the library (they’re open, too!), and real vacations, rather than stay-cations, are calling. And soon, “Spotlight by Starlight,” the free summer concert series at Mason District Park, will begin live performances for July and August, along with the international entertainment series on Saturdays at Ossian Hall Park. More about that exciting news next week.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]